Abby tapped on the closed door. "Come in?" The voice was a little hoarse, but familiar.

Luka was sitting up in bed, channel surfing. "So, you decided to finally pay me a visit," he said, smiling.

"I tried to come up earlier, Luka -- really I did. But we were swamped downstairs. I couldn't get away."

Luka hit the power button on the remote, turning off the TV, and tossed it on the bed. "All those days in the hospital in Kisangani I was looking forward to coming back to County, where there are TV's in the rooms. TV's with cable ... dozens of channels. So I get here, and find that there still isn't a damn thing worth watching." He grinned at her again, and Abby laughed, but she was studying his face. He was much too pale, with dark circles beneath his eyes, and the red marks of half-healed cuts and bruises showing up starkly against the pallor. He was very thin, the bones in his face showed, and the hospital gown hung on him, even more sack-like than usual. And, while his smile had been genuine; spontaneous and warm, it had not reached his eyes. His eyes startled her. There seemed to be a wall behind them, a darkness far deeper than could be explained by illness and fatigue. What had he seen? What was he hiding behind his eyes? (Carter had given them little information over the telephone, and the medical records that has accompanied him contained only basic medical information -- not that Abby had even seen those, of course. They had gone directly to the doctors who would be caring for Luka.) She had heard, long before today, of course, that he had been injured, ill. But she hadn't expected this. Not after a month's recuperation in the Congo.

"It's so good to have you home again, Luka."

"It's good to be home .... never thought I'd be looking forward to the food at County."

"You need to eat a lot of it, I think. Whatever diet they had you on over there was a bit too extreme!" It was meant as a joke, of course, but pain flickered for an instant on Luka's face, lighting the darkness behind his eyes. A moment's awkward silence. "Any idea how long you'll have to stay? Before you're discharged, I mean, and get to really go home.

"A while yet; probably a couple of weeks at least. Ortho was down to see me this morning, took a bunch of pictures. I need more surgery on my leg -- the bone's still a real mess. It's not healing properly ... they need to rebreak and reset it ... a couple dozen pins and screws." A sigh, then he seemed to steady himself and smiled again. "But I start PT tomorrow."

"No rest for the wicked?"

Luka shrugged. "I need to start getting my strength back. I'm looking forward to it, really. I've been lying in bed doing nothing way too long. We'll work on my upper body and my good leg -- I'm going to need those, because as soon as I can be up and getting around on crutches, Allenson says I should be able to go home." A pause. "I'm going to walk again, Abby." The fierce determination in his voice startled her. She hadn't realized there was any question. Could that have been the source of the haunted look in his eyes? The fear that he might never walk? "Allenson says I'll probably limp ... may need a crutch for a while even after the bones mend ... but I'm going to walk again."

"Of course you will," Abby said quickly. "And if you need a crutch, you can just tell people that you're channeling Weaver."

Another laugh that didn't quite touch the darkness in his eyes. "She was by to see me too. Acted so very thrilled to see me. It was a real good act."

"Just wants you back to work soon. We've been real short on attendings with you and Carter away. And if Carter is still in Africa..."

"He'll be home soon, Abby. I'm sure he misses you a lot."

Abby shook her head. "Didn't he tell you? We didn't part on the best of terms. I think it's over. With a whimper rather than a bang, but this patient is definitely dead."

"Sorry," Luka said. "I didn't know. We really didn't talk about home much." The door opened and Gillian came in. "Abby, this is ..."

"We've met already," Abby interrupted. "Hi, Gillian."

Gillian put several pill cups down on the tray table and swung it around in front of Luka. She filled a cup with water for him. "Your evening meds," she said. "You need to take them, then it's probably time to get some sleep. You look about wiped out. It's been a long day."

"It's been a long month," Luka said softly.

Abby was looking at the pills. She recognized most of them; antibiotics, antimalarials, iron tablets, a sleeping pill -- and the very familiar drugs that made up the Triple Cocktail. HIV treatment? Luka saw her looking at the pills, and quickly picked up the cups and dumped them into his hand.

"I was ... I may have been exposed in the Congo. It's hard to avoid if you spend much time there. Infection rate's astronomical."

"Needle stick?" asked Abby.

Luka's response was a noncommittal shrug. He closed his eyes for a moment, but not before Abby saw, again, the flicker of pain break through the wall. Could this be what was worrying him? But he gathered himself and went on. "The first test was negative, but I'm still stuck with 6 months of pills and safe sex until we can be certain."

"I'm sure you'll be fine," Abby said. "The conversion rate from needle sticks is really low, even without ARVs."

Luka didn't answer. He swallowed the pills and began to play with the empty cups, arranging them in patterns on the tray. After a minute the silence became unbearable. Abby said, "Well, Gillian's right. You need to get some sleep. I'll come back and see you tomorrow, I promise."

Luka was lying down again, the sleeping pill already seemed to be working. He shut his eyes. "Come early ..." he murmured. "I think I'm having surgery tomorrow afternoon."

"Ok. Sleep well." Abby smiled at him, and at Gillian, and went out into the hall. Gillian followed her a moment later.

"Luka looked really glad to see you," Gillian said brightly.

"Yeah." Abby hesitated. "He looks like he's been through a lot."

"He has been. It's been rough for him. He nearly died ... several times, but he fought his way back."

"You were with him? All the time?" Abby hesitated, uncertain how to ask what she wanted to know. But Gillian seemed to guess.

"Abby, it's not my place to tell you anything. Luka will tell you as much as he feels able ... as soon as he feels ready. Until then, just be there for him. He still has a long fight ahead of him ... in a lot of ways. He's going to need friends who care about him, and who don't ask too many questions."

Abby managed to smile. "I think I can do that." She started down the hall, and was surprised to see Gillian following. "You aren't going to stay with him?"

Gillian shook her head. "No. He doesn't like it... he doesn't like having people there while he sleeps. He has nightmares ... talks in his sleep."

"But when he wakes up, he'll be confused ..."

"Abby," Gillian said firmly. "It's what he wants. We have to respect that, if we want to get him back. Trust me on this one." Then she smiled. "Now, where's the cafeteria? I need some coffee. This jet lag is killing me."

"The cafeteria coffee will kill you too. Try the Jumbo Mart across the street." Abby watched Gillian head for the elevator and hesitated, looking back towards Luka's room. Then she sighed and followed Gillian. She needed coffee too. No ... what she really needed was tequila, but she'd have to settle for coffee. She knew she wasn't going to be able to sleep, and it was going to be a long night.